Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson
Summary (from Barnes and Noble): "High school senior Tyler Miller used to be the kind of guy who faded into the background-average student, average looks, average dysfunctional family. But since he got busted for doing graffiti on the school, and spent the summer doing outdoor work to pay for it, he stands out like you wouldn't believe. His new physique attracts the attention of queen bee Bethany Milbury, who just so happens to be his father's boss's daughter, the sister of his biggest enemy-and Tyler's secret crush. And that sets off a string of events and changes that have Tyler questioning his place in the school, in his family, and in the world."
My thoughts: I was impressed that the book had a big warning on the front page "Note: this is not a book for children." It seems as if many YA books are becoming tween books and tween books are becoming kids' books and it gets a bit inappropriate at times. But there's no bones about this one - there's some serious stuff going on. I liked that that was made clear from the start.
This book takes on a subject that doesn't seem to get addressed much today - what it means to be a man. The inside flap says "Everybody told me to be a man. Nobody told me how." And Tyler really does have to learn for himself, through a great deal of trial and error and suffering. His angry father is no kind of role model (about the only thing he has going for him is that he doesn't physically beat his children). It also deals with depression and poor self-esteem in young men, an area that doesn't seem to get much attention. Tyler has always felt like a loser and just when it seems like he's finally come into his own, Bethany and her clique bring him right back down again and this time he reaches his breaking point. Tyler's struggle with suicidal thoughts is so real and tragic. And when he comes out the other side, all on his own (with a bit of help from his best friend, Calvin), it's a triumph. Life still isn't perfect, but Tyler is going to be okay.
One thing I really liked was that Tyler had real relationships with his freshman sister Hannah and with Calvin. He wasn't always nice to them, but he truly cared about them and they're well done secondary characters, not just background decoration.
This wasn't a fun read, but it was gripping. I was actually surprised to find that it was about a boy. But Anderson writes Tyler as well as her previous female characters. It's a bit like Speak in the way both characters become outcasts after parties where the event that happened was not their fault at all. I hope that the female author won't keep boys away from Twisted - it's got a lot to say about the trials of high school, becoming a man, and making your way in the world.